$20 million grant to study effects of climate change

Six scientists from Ecosystem Science and Management will be part of a $20 million grant to study effects of climate change on agricultural and forest production

$20 million grant to study effects of climate change On Friday, Feb. 18, the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded three Coordinated Agriculture Projects (CAP) representing a major scientific investment in studying the effects of climate change on agriculture and forest production. NIFA Director Roger Beachy made the announcement at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.

"Climate change has already had an impact on agriculture production. Going forward agriculture producers need sound scientific information to plan and make decisions to ensure their economic viability," Beachy said. "These projects ensure we have the best available tools to accurately measure the effects of climate change on agriculture, develop effective methods to sustain productivity in a changing environment and pass these resources on to the farmers and industry professionals who can put the research into practice."

Institute of Food and Agriculture announced the award of a five-year, $20 million grant, to fund research, outreach and education to develop and transfer better management methods for southern pine, notably loblolly pine. They will study climate change mitigation and adaptation as it relates to southern pines, particularly loblolly pine, which comprises 80 percent of the planted forestland in the Southeast. It's widely used for lumber, pulp and paper production, and has great potential for biofuel production.

NIFA made the awards through its Agriculture and Food Research Initiative funding opportunity. AFRI's Climate Change challenge area is focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing carbon sequestration in agricultural and forest production systems and preparing the nation's agriculture and forests to adapt to changing climates.

Two-thirds of all the drinking water in the U.S. comes from forested watersheds.

ESSM Team of Scientists

Dr. Kostya Krutovsky, Dr. Carol Loopstra and Dr. Tom Byram

Drs. Tom Byram, Carol Loopstra and Kostya Krutovsky will be the genetics team from Texas A&M University.

Among this project's main objectives are the study of loblolly pine's genetic adaptation to potential climate change. The goal is to use this knowledge to develop a new seed deployment tool that will help mitigate the detrimental effects of warmer and drier climate in the southeastern United States. Association and population genetics analysis will be used to characterize important adaptation and mitigation traits to support future breeding efforts. The genetics program will support development of growth and yield models, stand-level biophysical carbon balance modeling, multi-scale policy and economic analysis of market and non-market forest benefits and services, and an education program to deliver state-of-the-art forest management solutions. Texas A&M will assist collaborators at sister organizations in meeting these objectives through a local genetics team.

Dr. Jason Vogel Dr. Jason Vogel's research group will be examining forestry practices in managed loblolly pine forests to identify those that will increase forest production and the capture of carbon while also increasing the resistance of these forests to the potential negative effects of climate change. In addition, the cycling of important plant nutrients will be examined as these vary with common forestry practices (fertilization, weed control) so that practices can be recommended that preserve or increase long-term forest productivity. Their goal is to maximize the benefits and stability of these forests as we enter a century of potentially rapid changes in climate.

Dr. Jianbang Gan Dr. Gan's work will focus on assessing the risk and economic consequences of climate induced disturbances such as wildfire and southern pine beetle (Dendroctonus frontalis Zimmermann) outbreaks under global climate change. He will develop models that can incorporate spatial and temporal variations into the portraying of adaptations along the climate gradient in the South. His work is anticipated to help better understand the impact of climate change and its induced disturbances on southern forest ecosystems and the role of adaptations in mitigating the impact, guiding the development and deployment of forestry adaptation strategies in the southern US.

Dr. Eric Taylor will serve as the co-leader for the Extension and outreach group. The project'sExtension goal is to disseminate and demonstrate the current and emerging knowledge, practices, and tools developed by the team (regarding southern pine breeding, genetic deployment, management, and harvesting in light of projected climate changes) to key influential educators who will share this information with landowners and resource managers, enabling them to implement changes and impact efforts. This task will not only be accomplished through traditional Extension programming efforts, but also by creatively leveraging modern forms of information technology, communication, and social networking. The primary components of our dissemination and training effort will be (1) materials development, (2) training and dissemination, (3) a landowner-oriented decision support system (DSS), (4) building technology assisted training and outreach mechanisms, and (5) assessment and evaluation.

The Department of Ecosystem Science and Management (ESSM) was formed in March 2007 by a merger of the Departments of Rangeland Ecology and Management and Forest Science. This new academic Department reflects an expanded emphasis on ecosystem science and natural resource management in its education, research, and extension programs. The Department is in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and it is comprised of 50 faculty, 57 staff, and 100 graduate and 230 undergraduate students. The primary mission of the Department is to 'solve real world problems with research-based solutions'.